This is carried out through the use of a number of “diagonal” presentations that form a multiplicity of single examples and course of events, yet which in this thesis are all united in a temporary alliance. By use of specific concepts and ways of representation, these experiences become a set of cross-references that allow and open up pattern comparisons, matching and triangulation.
Through this type of artistic research, a more sophisticated discussion on design practice and a broader intellectual reference can be introduced as a complement to other academic research in the field of design. Consequently, the thesis does not have an introductory chapter outlining the basic theory, aim, and method to prepare the reader for the final chapter’s conclusions. There is no strict question and no proven answer.
Instead, one way of reading this thesis is to imagine it as a series of journeys, pulled together by the “gravity” of an attractor and condensed into a prism. This is a prism through which we can see the world from many different angles and where each chapter is one side. As we look through this prism, always in a slight diagonal, we will see that each shaft of light or each approach refracts into a spectrum of new possibilities for practice.
This opens for a multiplicity of “designerly” approaches. We can also think of the prism as a considered collection of examples that forms a designer’s Wunderkammer or a Cabinet of Curiosities where we can go, from object to object or from idea to idea, in wonderment and inspiration. On this journey, I will be your guide and dragoman.
fashion and becoming
Without any further delay, I must address my use of the concept of fashion, as it will be a central element in this thesis. A common trait in fashion theory is to make a distinction between “clothing” and “fashion”, in which the former denotes the functional, technical, and protective 34 aspects of dress, while the second is seen as symbolic, signifying and communicative (Barthes 1983, Bourdieu 1986, 1993a, Kawamura 2005).
This division is at the same time both helpful and unfortunate since these two aspects are commonly intertwined. Yet, fashion is a modern dream connected directly to the zeitgeist (Wilson 1985, Vinken 2005) and to the now. It may be said that clothing is part of the Hellenic time concept of Chronos, the duration, while fashion resides in kairos, the propitious moment or opportunity. Clothing can be, just like suffering, be chronic and everlasting, but never fashion.
From this perspective of kairos, fashion is indeed like passion, a sudden burst of energy, a firing of ephemeral intensity. This is similar to how Bourdieu describes fashion: “Fashion is the latest fashion, the latest difference.” (Bourdieu 1993a: 135) When confronted with new fashion we can find ourselves, almost unconsciously and often unwillingly, electrified by the brilliance of its very newness. This burst of intensity is how a new fashion “hits” us, how we are temporarily “blinded” by its luminosity, and how “immune” to it most of us are to it after the last epidemic craze has passed.
I have not trained as a fashion designer, for my studies have been in the fields of arts and craft, art history and design and my road to becoming a designer has not directly intersected with the fashion system. However, for some years I have been working and moving on its periphery attempting to understand how its grey zones are structured and how they function. My awareness of fashion comes from other directions.
The first encounter was with the experience of how making my own clothes offered me a social armour. Appearing in the anorak that I had sewn by myself made me feel stronger when having to face the tough schoolmates when starting at a new school. However, this anorak was neither created to make me seen, nor help me hide. Its strength did not come from its form or shape, but from the knowledge that I had made it, made it with the pride in the craft and skill I had acquired.
No matter how small it was, my ability rewarded me with a clear feeling of self-enhancement and even when it was left hanging in the wardrobe at home, I felt remarkably different just from knowing I had been able to make it. It was the proof of an exploration and of a personal journey, of heightened knowledge, concentration and skill. It was a garment with a symbolic connection to fashion, a resemblance if you will, a fashion item, but certainly not one that in any way resembles “the right threads” worn by the coolest students at school. It was cheap to make, but for me it was priceless.